Well fit to run after battle with cancer

Darren McMahon, having been treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is back on his feet and race ready

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 01:00

Darren McMahon is 26 years old and will be competing in the Colour Dash 5km run in aid of the Irish Cancer Society this weekend. While this doesn’t seem like an extraordinary challenge for a man of his age, the fact that four years ago, he was battling for his life, makes his efforts seem a lot more heroic.

In December 2010, the Clare man was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma and for several months was incapable of much more than attending sessions of chemotherapy.

However, while dumbfounded by his diagnosis, McMahon channelled his limited energy levels into surviving the treatment and getting back on his feet.

“In the summer of 2010, I was over in London and noticed that I had a bit of a lump in my neck,” he recalls.

“I didn’t think too much about it at the time and even though I had begun to feel very tired all the time, had lost my appetite and a good deal of weight, I still wasn’t too worried and carried on with my life.

“But that winter I was at home in Ennis and I noticed that I had a lump on the other side of my neck. At this point I started wondering if something might be wrong and decided to visit my GP who immediately referred me for a biopsy in University Hospital Limerick.

“He was very positive and told me not to worry and, above all, to stay away from checking my symptoms online. But of course as soon as I got home that is exactly what I did and was shocked to discover that I had all the signs of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is particularly common in males aged between 17 and 22.”

Inconclusive

McMahon – who lives with his parents, Deirdre and Jacko – was called for the biopsy but the results were inconclusive so the test had to be redone. This time there was no mistaking the fact that he had a very serious disease.

“I had my first keyhole biopsy in December 2010 and when no information was gained from that, I had another one a week later,” he recalls. “This time a whole nodule was taken out and when I was called back to get the results, I was told that I had stage 3 lymphoma – which meant that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes but not the blood, which was where it would have gone next.

“Because I had Googled my symptoms, I was somewhat prepared for the news but it came as a big shock to my parents – particularly my mum who was really emotional. Dad was more level-headed, so much in fact that he said it was better that it happened to me rather than my siblings – Graham (19), Hazel (29) and Eli (33) – as he knew I would be able to cope.

“It may sound strange, but that is how we dealt with the issue at the time. We found out the facts and then wanted to get on with treatment as soon as possible.

“We were even joking about it on the way home and I told my parents that these were the worst test results I had received since my Leaving Cert. Lightening the mood was how we coped with the news because allowing ourselves to be distressed wouldn’t have achieved anything.”